Thursday Sept. 15. Newport, Or.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 15th, 2016



The bridge at Newport over the Yaquina River.

I arrived here at the breakwater entrance at 3 pm. After a good hot shower I feel a lot better. Right now I am waiting for my load of laundry to finish in the dryer. I am at the South Beach Marina. A huge marina with an even bigger RV parking area. I peeked in through the windows of the community hall, white haired ladies playing cards. Their men outside cleaning their catch of the Pacific Ocean. When I grow up I want to join them. Port hopping down the coast takes time. This stop adds a day just to get back far enough to be outside of the fishing fleets and crab pots. The predominant NW wind are more reliable away from the coast. Coming back into the coast, yesterday, I had to tack into SW winds. Though the AIS allows me to sleep with the laptop next to me and checking the alarm, nine times out of ten, there is little I need to do. It shows me the direction and speed and it calculates the time of the AIS target crossing my track. A terrific new tool for a single handed sailor.

Here is what I started writing on board for this blog , from Tuesday onward:

Tuesday Sept 13 2016 Off the Olympic Peninsula Pacific Coast.

It is 12.30 and since 9.30 this morning I have managed to cover 3 ½ nautical miles. The marine radio forecasts 5-15 knots of a N.W. wind. I’d take the 5 knots to just have steerage. I woke up at 2.20 this morning and the boat was dead in the water. Just slopping around in the left over waves and swell from this Monday’s strong winds. I was doing 7 knots under just the 135% genoa jib, yesterday afternoon. It makes no sense to crank on the engine. I went back to sleep after dropping the sails. When I woke up around 8 a.m. a tiny breeze came up and since then it has been stop and go. Frustrating! The waves collapse the sails. But it is a beautiful warm late summer day. With the sleep deprivation of that first Sunday night, my visitors are back: the voices. I hear a lady in a high pitch voice talking in the peak of the boat, but I cannot make out the words. When I woke up at 2.30, with the boat dead in the water, I swore that there were a few people in a dinghy checking out the abandoned boat. They were horn playing on kelp tubes, I looked out but saw no one. Often it is just lines rubbing in the movement of the swells.

I left Port Townsend at 15.30 on Sunday. My standard departure day, over the course of the circumnavigation. I had a nice sail in the Strait of San Juan de Fuca until midnight and then had to resort to engine power, all the way until I reached Cape Flattery entering the Pacific at around 10.30 on Monday. I decided to take the shortcut though “The Hole in the Wall” narrow passage. This time it was very rough with a strong ebb and a strong following wind. I had to use all my force to control the steerage in the whirlpools. From 1976 until 1993 I hardly missed a sailing in the annual Memorial Day short and medium course of the Swiftsure Lightship Classic regatta, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, from  Victoria, B.C., the area brings back the memories. About 5 miles east of Neah Bay I saw two Humpback whales feeding, about a couple hundred feet from the boat. I took a number of pictures but I am having automatic focus problems with my old Nikon D-50. Here is a so-so picture of the enormous tail of one of the two. Once passed by, I heard this loud plunge on the surface. I just saw the end of a breech. When I looked across the Strait I could see 4 more, besides the two whales near me, spouting at the same time, it looked like the Yellow Stone geysers.



This afternoon the promised 5-15 knots slowly filled in. I hoisted the spinnaker for nearly three hours. A perfect sail. I enjoyed the ride, perched next to the windvane on the lee side against the stern pulpit. How many almost 80 years old men get to have this much fun? I forgot all the frustrations of the night and the morning. By the time it got to the 15 knots it started to become a chore to keep up with it. I did a perfect spinnaker douse. The chute is repacked for its next opportunity. This is a larger chute than I had on the original “Fleetwood”, which had a taller mast and a larger main sail but smaller head sails. It was a fractional sail plan. The chute has the same green and white panels as my old spinnaker, but it has a few light blue panels in it as well.

dsc_0126AIS is to me what sliced bread was a century ago. Once in a while a bell goes off on my lap top and it is
to check the position and the direction of the vessel I am approaching. It turns out to be a fishing boat. I am just abeam of Grays Harbor, about 60 miles away from shore.

Wednesday Sept 14. The NW wind of between 10/15 knots stayed with me through the night, making for good progress and a good night sleep. At 10 am I had covered over 94 nautical miles towards my destination for the 24 hours. Not bad, since I did not sail it straight to keep better boat speed. But the wind died down again. I tried the spinnaker once more but there was too little wind to fill it. Down again and repack and sort out all the lines again. I motored for 45 minutes until the breeze slowly filled. Right now, 16.45 hour, the wind has gone from NW to WSW and heading for Newport, Or., at this rate I should be in by tomorrow, Thursday, evening.


This is not quite the same as the almost daily, text only, blogs I posted, from June 2009 onward, through SailMail. But I expect to have no more than a week between posts, since my ocean crossing days are over, (I tell myself..). Unless there is a sudden deterioration in the weather forecast, I shall most likely make just one stop between here and San Francisco. Probably, Fort Bragg, California.


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Stephen says:

    Hello Jack, I’m in Portland. If you are up for it, I would love to meet you in Newport on Saturday or Sunday. I assume my email address comes through with this, so you could email me for details or phone number. Best regards, Stephen